There goes the neighbourhood.
According to Bloomberg, someone just used a quantum computer to locate weaknesses in common encryption methods.
Is this a big deal? Well yes. It signals cracks in the confidence of symmetric encryption and in the privacy and secrecy of our data in transit – including personal information, financial operations, Internet communication, etc. But should it come as a surprise? Absolutely not. We have long known that when quantum computers become commercially available, the symmetric encryption we count on for everything – from government and military, to health and safety, to communications, commerce, education, finance – everything will be critically, criminally vulnerable.
And here we are. As Swiss-based Terra Quantum AG CEO Markus Pflitsch puts it mildly, “What currently is viewed as being post-quantum secure is not post-quantum secure. We can show and have proven that it isn’t secure and is hackable.”
Specifically, the company purports to have used quantum annealing, while inverting a hash function, to find vulnerabilities in symmetric ciphers – including AES. In addition, Terra Quantum is claiming that even the strongest versions of AES encryption may be decipherable by quantum computers expected to be available in as little as a few years.
For the moment, the evidence to support these claims has not yet been published in detail, which explains why various security experts are apparently far from ready to declare a major breakthrough. But does it, really? Since Google’s 2019 achievement of a quantum supremacy milestone, high-tech leaders like IBM and Microsoft have been predicting that quantum computing will join the mainstream in less than five years. Some, like Honeywell, believe the science is on a trajectory to increase quantum volume 10-fold every year through 2025. Even if it is the case that people tend to overestimate what can be done in one year, and underestimate what can be done in five or ten, no one should be astonished that Quantum computing capacity is growing by leaps and bounds. And if it turns out that quantum annealing can break AES, the concept of quantum supremacy will take on a whole new significance. Not to put too fine a point on it, the global digital economy will be turned on its head.
Meanwhile, Google, perhaps not surprisingly, has offered no comment about this week’s news.
Still, to be fair, there are reasons for healthy scepticism as we await validation of Terra Quantum’s claims. The company has developed a Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) solution of its own, and therefore has a vested interest in demonstrating the potential security vulnerabilities of PQC.
Regardless, however, what is clear is this: today’s Internet cybersecurity is fragile. Whether it’s quantum annealing today, or another method the day after tomorrow, our digital economies are completely dependent on a global communications security infrastructure that is now under threat. Markets worth trillions of dollars still rely on outdated traditional cryptography. In the intensifying race to stay ahead of quantum advances, current photonic QKD solutions come with prohibitive cost and deployment challenges. And, as we may have just witnessed this week, Post-Quantum Cryptography carries the volatility and uncertainty of unknown quantum algorithms.
Meanwhile, Quantropi’s patented Digital QKD technology leverages quantum algorithms, making it the only LOGICAL alternative – enabling fast, ultra-efficient quantum key exchange over the existing Internet, coupled with ease of adoption, crypto-agility and practical real-world implementability. For true quantum safety you can count on today, and Perfect Secrecy you can trust forever. No matter what the current or future threat.
And, with a breakthrough QPKE technology already in R&D with a physical prototype expected mid-2021, we will soon be unveiling an optical QKD solution that – believe it or not – works over existing fiber. Across long distances. At high key rates. More on that soon.
That future is fast approaching. Bring it on.